A while back I had the privilege of listening to author and investigative journalist Cecil Bothwell’s talk called “Mousetrap Earth”.
In it, he spoke of mortality. Something he said made me think of the Oasis song “Live Forever”. Since I’m going to not one but two funerals this week, death has been on my mind.
This will be a selection of prose, poetry, and a song on mortality (or immortality) and my thoughts. For the longer pieces I am including only excerpts and links.
Death, Be Not Proud
The John Donne sonnet, “Death, be not proud” is one that I loved from the first time I heard it. It was in a speech class years ago.
In the same speech class where I heard this poem for the first time, I also heard, “Because I could not stop for Death”, which I will talk about later.
Do I agree with everything in this beautiful poem? No. But the eloquence speaks to me. The hypberbaton of the language piques something in me.
Maybe I just wanna fly
Wanna live, I don’t wanna die
Maybe I just wanna breathe
Maybe I just don’t believe
Maybe you’re the same as me
We see things they’ll never see
You and I are gonna live forever
A Physicist At Your Funeral
There was a poem I wrote about nine years ago while dealing with a difficult death. I can’t find the full version, but it began like this:
These words of men by time removed –
They comfort not my soul.
They do not fix, or salve, or soothe –
They do not make me whole.
Maybe one day I’ll write the rest of it again. I just know it expresses my dissatisfaction with the typical platitudes and ancient quotes. To juxtapose my dissatisfaction, I’m including an excerpt below of one of the most meaningful pieces I’ve ever heard.
This piece I first heard at a memorial for a physicist – he actually wrote a commonly used textbook. I had the privilege of serving on a board for a non-profit with him, and he was one of the most amazing, most intelligent people I’ve ever met while still being incredibly humble. They opened the service with this. I started crying as I heard this piece. Afterwards I said to my husband that I thought I did well, and he responded that I cried before the decedent was even named. This piece is titled, “Planning Ahead Can Make a Difference in the End“.
And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith.
Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time.
You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around.
According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly.
This piece gives me more comfort than all the framed poems or folklore of Cardinals or ideas of a presence watching over me.
This last piece is incomplete, and I will include it in its entirety: Because I could not stop for Death– (479).
This is a piece by Emily Dickinson. I know, I know… I’ve said she’s not my favorite. While that is the complete truth, I can’t deny how much this poem has stuck to me over the years.
I know – that one’s really from the perspective of a ghost, but it’s always struck me as something that was very me. I mean…. it’s not fun if you don’t go fast is my motto, so it would seem reasonable that I wouldn’t stop for Death.
These are my morbid musings from the funerals this week. I hope these thoughts at least entertain you, and perhaps might make you think and feel.